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Who’s On Board? Meet Kristina, a first-generation student from Cal Poly State, San Luis Obispo

One reason Semester at Sea is so transformative is because it brings together a diverse community with various perspectives and unique experiences. This semester, as the community travels to 10+ countries, for some it is their first time leaving their home country. 

Meet Kristina Benbrooks, an outgoing and compassionate first-generation college student from northern Nevada, studying to become a pediatric occupational therapist. She shared that she was so excited to get her passport stamped for the very first time in Dubai before getting on the ship, that it almost didn’t feel real. 

According to Consortium for Analysis of Student Success through International Education, in 2020 only 8% of first-generation students studied abroad. This spring, on the MV World Odyssey, there are several first-generation students aboard, including Kristina. 

Since learning that her home institution, California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) was a partner with Semester at Sea, she knew coming on the voyage was meant to be. She worked hard academically and financially to make her study abroad dream a reality on her own, with the help of scholarships.   

Kristina believes studying abroad is an important part of a holistic education experience because it challenges your thinking and exposes you to concepts and ideas you may not otherwise encounter. 

“For every single person, one of the most important things they hold is their perspective of the world. Everyone has a different perspective that is influenced by their backgrounds, their families, and their experiences,” said Kristina. “Getting to see other people’s perspectives, both on the voyage and in-country, and have that influence my own while being open to that growth and change is one of the biggest things I hope to take away from my Semester at Sea experience.”

Kristina described how in her “Disability Across the Lifespan and Culture” field class, she had the opportunity to work in a school with students who have various disabilities. She reflects that interacting with the kids, therapists, and faculty members while hearing about their passions, was one of her most impactful memories so far. Kristina added that observing classes and a one-on-one pediatric occupational therapy session was a very moving experience and caused her to reflect on how her learning overseas will be continued into the next stages of her life. 

“It was kind of that moment where I realized that this is really what I want to do, and I may be across the world right now, but these practices are very similar to how I have observed sessions in the US,” Kristina explains. “So, it’s really cool to see how at the end of the day, kids are still kids, learning is still learning, and that was a really revolutionary moment for me. I think that field class demonstrated what Semester at Sea is all about and you can learn so much in these experiences.” 

Kristina referred to this voyage as a journey of “growth and self-reflection.” While learning about the world around her, she said she is discovering more about herself. 

“I not only have friends across the United States and across the globe, but I have gained so much understanding for humanity, people, and life.” 

Kristina is both excited and grateful to be a Semester at Sea voyager and like other many other first-generation students, is embracing every moment.

“Each day on Semester at Sea opens a new door to new experiences, new perspectives, and unparalleled memories I’ll hold with me for a lifetime.”

Ready to embrace your own study abroad experience? Learn more about our upcoming voyages, scholarships, and financial aid options!

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